Antrim happy to push on for home comfort
When the Tyrone county board returned in excess of 1,000 terrace tickets for last month's Ulster Championship quarter-final against Donegal at MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey it lent further impetus – if indeed impetus were needed – to the ambitious plan to transform Casement Park into as state-of-the-art 38,000 all-seater stadium.
It was energetic Tyrone PRO Eunan Lindsay who perhaps best encapsulated the fans' view when he said: "People are reluctant to take young children to stand on the terraces at games. For a start they may not even see what is happening and obviously they can be discomfited on the terraces. There is clearly a growing demand on the part of supporters for more comfort and even better facilities."
Nowhere has Lindsay's succinct appraisal had more resonance than in Antrim where county officials, while strongly focussed on Sunday's vital Ulster Championship clash with Monaghan, are hoping that the Consultation Process in relation to the new-look Casement Park can be completed satisfactorily thus allowing the venture to proceed further.
Chairman Jim Murray believes that the provision of the new stadium will not only prove a welcome bonus for current followers but will mark the dawn of a new era for the GAA not just in Antrim but in the province as a whole.
"When the project is completed we will have a fantastic stadium," states Murray,.
"Our aim is to have Ulster Championship semi-finals and finals played at Casement Park with spectators enjoying maximum comforts. Obviously the big challenge will be to fill the venue as often as we can but that is something that we will be prepared to tackle."
For Sunday's game, a crowd of 8,000-10,000 is anticipated and it is expected to be one of the last championship ties before the refurbishment of the ground gains pace.
"There is no doubt that people are prepared to come out in big numbers to championship games if they feel the facilities are there for them," points out Murray, "What passed for spectator accommodation even in the recent past would not come up to standard nowadays.
"People expect more for their hard-earned money and it is our intention to deliver in this respect."
Meanwhile, the Antrim team will embrace the 'Opt for Life' mantra for Sunday's game.
Shane Finnegan and Joe Brolly, who are driving the campaign, attended a county squad training session where the new Antrim jersey bearing the 'Opt for Life' logo was formally unveiled.
Antrim officials are keen to see clubs in the county as well as all GAA followers throw their weight behind the crusade.
Antrim PRO Brendan Mulgrew says: "We are delighted to be associated with this worthy cause. The county board would urge all clubs to promote organ donation within their clubs. We are with Joe and Shane, all the way to the successful conclusion of this campaign."
Antrim skipper Kevin O'Boyle believes the 'Opt for Life' initiative will lend an extra dimension to Sunday's game.
"It's a very important concept and deserves the highest support from all quarters," he adds.